MANILA, Philippines – When the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) decided on Tuesday, November 17, to deny the disqualification case against Grace Poe, the senator was meeting residents and students in Biñan, Laguna.
Hours before the decision, she had already turned emotional, crying "justice" for herself and for other foundlings in the country. That her status as a natural-born Filipino is being questioned, she had said, was a form of discrimination against all foundlings like her.
But she carried on with her activities for the day. In a consultation with residents, the presidential candidate and her running mate Senator Francis Escudero even talked about pressing issues in the country such as education, agriculture, and social services.
In a Facebook post, Poe's chief for political affairs Gary Jimenez said the presidential aspirant was on her way to the Biñan campus of the University of Perpetual Help System when she learned of the SET decision: 5 senators out of the 9-member tribunal voted to deny the petition filed by her accuser Rizalito David.
Citing the rights of the adopted child, the majority voted that Poe, as a foundling, is a natural-born Filipino.
Of the senator members, only Nancy Binay concurred with the 3 Supreme Court justices on the panel who voted to disqualify the senator.
"Hinintay ko ang pagkakataong ito. Natanggap ko ang balita at nasabi na rin sa inyo na aprubado po tayo. Dineklara ng SET na hindi po tayo disqualified. Alam 'nyo po, hindi ko po makakalimutan itong University of Perpetual Help sapagkat dito ko nalaman ang magandang balita na iyan," Poe told those gathered at the university on Tuesday.
(I've been waiting for this moment to come. I just received the news, and you were already informed, that we won. The SET declared that I am not disqualified. You know, I will not forget the University of Perpetual Help because it was here where I learned of that good news.)
So happy was the senator, Jimenez said, that, right after the meeting, she looked for a chapel in the university to pray. The nearest one was "more than a soccer field away," but this did not deter Poe.
"The next thing that transpired did not really surprise us any more. She took off and ran almost the entire length of the field even as young children then playing in the grass saw her and shouted: 'Grace Poe! Grace Poe!'" Jimenez said in his Facebook post.
It was a decision worth celebrating, but the case is far from over.
The SET's decision is not yet a final one, and the camp of petitioner David plans to file a motion for reconsideration on Monday, November 23.
The tribunal will have to convene again to decide on the case with finality, hopefully before the printing of ballots in December.
The final decision is expected to have a bearing on a separate case filed by David before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
There, David alleged that Poe committed an election offense when she "falsely claimed" she is a natural-born Filipino and had met the residency requirement when she ran for the Senate in the 2013 elections.
It will also have an impact on Poe's presidential bid in the 2016 elections. To date, the presidential poll front runner is facing 4 disqualification cases before the Comelec, with 3 of the petitioners questioning Poe's natural-born status.
The other case questions her qualification for president based on the minimum residency requirement that she allegedly didn't meet. It is an issue that the case decided by the SET did not tackle.
The Constitution of the Philippines requires that those elected as president, vice president, senator, and congressmen be natural-born citizens. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.